Pondering Life Its Own Self

When I started this blog I wanted it to be about Pitt football – which it is with my own twists applied and with your comments, questions and suggestions. I believe you all appreciate the Pitt POV and the work that goes into it and so you should certainly believe that I appreciate all of you right back.

We Pitt fans love to talk about the football team, the Athletic Dept. and the university itself. That is what we care about and what has become – either in this century or the last – a big part of our lives be it if we are young or older. That is wrapped by the fact that at some point in our collective lives we all lived; slept, ate, drank and breathed in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

Thus we become friends on here also. 

I first noticed this phenomenon when I was writing on The Pitt Blather and realized I knew and cared about some people on there whom I have never met in person as much as I do my neighbors or my friends outside of the blog members writing, reading and commenting on shared things of interest.

So I’d like to take today’s article and talk to you as my friends who I want to share some personal things with.

My wife and I looked at each other a while ago and had the same thought at the same time; we had to get away from everything for a couple of days. We’ve had some rather serious family illness going on – but after 35 years of marriage these things come on, get dealt with and resolved and then we let it go.  We are pretty good at that.

But this time something was different and I’ll tell you what was a big part of it. This upcoming election and the 24/7 bullshit thrown up by the candidates, their supporters and by all the media talking heads. I know we don’t talk politics on here and I’m not pointing out one party or person or the other, I truly am not,  just that the whole thing is hard to believe and depressing as hell.

I’ve talked a lot about my career in the Coast Guard on here and will say one thing – after devoting 33 years of my life to serving the American public I’m honestly sad as hell that we’ve come down to this.

It is nothing but negative crap peddled by  media people who insist on showing the rotten side of things to keep viewers enthralled, and their pockets lined, rather than try to sift through the noise and give us voters some semblance of concrete information on the candidates so that we can cast an informed vote in good conscience.

I read a recent poll that showed 57% of us felt that we are  ‘stressed’ by what is happening this election. I believe that 100% and think it may be on the low side.  It isn’t that people are sick and tired – it is that people are disgusted by how this is playing out via the media and there is a big difference between the two.

I was one of those stressed guys so we grabbed hands and took off to Smith Island, Maryland to escape… and boy was it an escape.  Like going back in time 100 years escape… like another world escape. 

Smith Island lays about 15 miles off the town of Crisfield, MD which is the southernmost tip of Maryland’s Easter Shore and the only way to get there is by boat.

Image result for captain jason smith islandThus its isolation from the mainland and from the larger part of the rest of America.  It isn’t exaggerating to say that a majority of the 270+ people who live there go across the Bay to  ‘over there‘ maybe once or twice a year – and I met one lady who hadn’t done that, save a hospital visit, in over 20 years.

The Island is dependent on the centuries old business work of the Chesapeake Bay Watermen who have been pulling crab pots and tonging for oysters since they were children young enough to step onto a boat.

 photo oyster tongers_zps7qsnno0g.jpg

I didn’t see any man over the age of 60 who didn’t walk bent over due to decades of pole-pushing boats, pulling crab pots and using those huge iron & wood oyster tongs.  The median age of the island is 58 years old so that was a lot of the men there.

The most interesting part of their lives, to me, is that they all speak an Old English Elizabethan dialect that is drawn-out and mumbled  so strongly  that ‘off-islanders’ can’t hardly tell what they are saying.

The video below was shot from a table in the only general store on island and is where my wife and I sat while eating crab cakes – also listening to a later group of older men talking the afternoon away. Take a listen to this group (they are actually talking about  a fire started from an appliance):


Amazing – and that isn’t as strong an accent as what we heard. The only people without that old speech are the ‘newcomers’ to Smith Island which means anyone who moved there in the last 25 years apparently.

A strange thing is that even with the new technologies of today; satellite TV and the Internet and with the middle and high school kids going to Crisfield for school (by boat of course) and interacting with outsiders, the young people on the Island are not only still talking like that but with even stronger accents then their parents and grandparents have.

BTW – that shop above, one small restaurant and the church are the only public places. There is, surprisingly, a small post office that the USPS wanted to close down. That is  until the postal guy who went there to inform the local population of the bad news the office would close realized, while on a boat going to the island, that it was indeed an island in every sense of the word. They kept it open with cut down hours.

We spent the night in an old B&B  with nothing but our books and some food. No hosts at all, no one else in the Inn – just an open door (no one locks doors there) and some other food in the ‘fridge. Strange and eerie doesn’t begin to describe it.

The whole place was like it had stood still in time and is quiet as hell. Because there is literally nothing open past 4 pm  we made coffee and sat and read our books and talked the rest of the day.  At around 9:00 pm  I went out and walked around the perimeter of the island and noticed halfway through that not one house had any lights one – not one. Everything was pitch black but for a lampost here and there and the high tide was bringing water down the streets.

The ‘breakfast’ part of the B&B were waffles and egg omelets in the freezer… ‘help yourself!’

When we went back to Crisfield the next morning (by the same boat) we stopped up the road for a real breakfast and were in conversation with some town locals there. When we told them we just got back from the island and they didn’t understand and said “You mean you actually spent the night there?!

An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake by Tom Horton is a good book on the island’s history.  But one piece of advice – there are morning tours of the island in the summer – boats out and back by noon.  Do one of those because it really is interesting a place and the people are very nice.  But get back to dry land before the ‘haints come out at night.

As weird as the whole experience was it really did relax me and gave me a chance to take a couple of days with no interruptions at all – we shut off our phones and didn’t take any  other electronics with us.  I sat back to take stock and reflect on just what things in life are of importance to me, what I hold dear, and what other things I can honestly say that I have no control over. 

It is those last things that have to be put in perspective. So I did and will continue to do so because I owe that to myself and others around me.

Starting with not watching one iota of the news or anything else about this upcoming election until the evening of Nov 8th.  I have good things to occupy my time.  Family, good books, my music and  a TV show or a movie to watch if I want entertainment.  Plus… I have you all to share thoughts with and to discuss Pitt football and other things in our lives.

That right there is a gift my friends and I’ll hold onto that while putting my fingers in my ears to all else that is just noise at this point.

146 thoughts on “Pondering Life Its Own Self

  1. Thanks for information on a place that I never heard of before. I plan to be retired in under 2 years and part of my retirement is to go to away Pitt games, and not be in any hurry to get there and back. Maybe the next time Pitt plays at UVa, I may stop a day or 2 at Smith Island.

    I’m with you on the over-the-top political coverage and rhetoric. I did not see one minute of the debate the other night and can’t wait for Nov 9. About the only politician I have any respect for any more is my own governor who appears to be the only adult left.


  2. Thanks for the info on Smith Island. In September, my wife and I went with friends to a place on the eastern shore of Virginia. Not as remote as Smith Island—but still quite cut off from the world as we know it. Great people. No rush to get things down. We just kayaked, hiked, visited lots of historic sites, read, ate and drank.

    Glad that you had a chance to get away, Reed.



  3. If we ever get EMP’d. we’ll all be living like the folks on Smith Island.

    It’s kind of neat that the bludgeoning Popular Culture has not affected these people.


  4. Thanks for sharing that Reed. One needs time to reflect I think, most of us don’t get a chance to… to very late in life. And by that time, a lot of us can’t remember. A cruel joke indeed.


  5. Reed…enjoyed your ‘scape write-up and especially the video and hearing the “natives” chat… the old timers from the Outer Banks, namely, Hatteras, Ocracoke and Roanoke Islands have that ” high- tider” twang as we call it… A buddy and myself head to Wachapreague Va on the Eastern Shore to fish every spring in the Flounder Fishing Capital of the World and I always felt that it was a peaceful where one could feel like he just stepped back into the 60’s … Smith Island sounds like one could go through a time warp back to the 20’s or 30’s


  6. Life is a lot better without watching the ‘talking heads’ of the various networks who all have ‘vested’ interests.

    In fact Life can be lived quite nicely, by cutting the cord from that garbage all together. Anything you must see can be found online for free or close to it.


  7. Reed, we’re lucky to have you for what you do to help enrich our Pitt football experience, but also for the other nuggets of wisdom you provide along the way. And you just provided another nice nugget.

    Hail to Pitt indeed.


  8. Thanks for sharing. That was pretty cool. At first I thought you may have given me a new place to vacation since I love the beach and all but that was a lot creepy. Did I hear a voice in the background muttering REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM? Smith island is not a place for me, for more than one reason.

    I understand that a person who’s devoted much of their life in serving their country would feel so disenchanted about what is going on this election. It’s a total head scratcher. I know I can’t believe it myself.


  9. As I get older, I find it increasingly important to take moments to disengage and consider life. Life that I have created and found success in and life that has passed or been wasted. These moments are a point of reflection, but also a reset of priorities and reminder that life is a journey that is better taken with love, family, friends and the memorable moments created along the way.

    Thanks Reed for another moment.


  10. Ike,
    If you’ve ever gone red drum fishing (red fish) you’d be chanting also! :>)
    They are a great fighting fish and exceptionable on the table!


  11. Deep, that is perfect.

    wbb, we are exciting. The problem is that other fans get excited about our defensive play also.

    If we can keep this winning streak this will have to go down as one of the best and weirdest seasons in Pitt football history. I’ll do some more football articles and then get back on to the regular schedule Know The Enemy and predictions threads.


  12. Nice post, Reed.

    Another similar trip is Tangier Island, a bit south of Smith. Not sure how one gets there from the Eastern Shore, but a ferry goes back and forth from Reedville, VA each day.

    If one is contemplating such a visit, dont wait too long. Both islands are threatened by rising seas. Check out the eastern edge of Smith Island on Google Earth and slide the date feature back and forth.


  13. Love that writeup on Smith’s Island. Not sure I’d venture on that trip myself. Living in NE Pa I just love taking Route 6 west for the beautiful scenic getaways that has to offer. Thankfully there is more than one general store and mop and pop motel on that route.


  14. Reed,

    It has been almost 40 years since visiting Crisfield and Tangiers Island. My former brother-in-law and I sailed a small hobi catamaran from Prince George’s across the bay to Tangiers with a hand-held compass. At one point there is only water in all directions and if you miss Tangiers to the south it is the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived safely but as you say not much is open. We found a hamburger joint called Fern’s and the only two words we understood were “Mohammed Ali” by a couple of teenagers sitting next to us. We slept on the beach of Crisfield Island and sailed back the next day. It is one of the fond adventures in my memory, filled with numerous episodes getting there and clearly an isolated outpost of American culture that most are unaware of. Sounds like not much has changed.

    Greatly enjoy the blog that I visit everyday. Thanks for bit of Americana and the insight into Pitt and Pitt Football.


  15. Reed, great article. So sorry you’ve had some serious family problems.
    I too, am looking forward to escaping for a few days after daughters iVC problems.

    My favorite escape is a solo trip back to the Burgh. Turn off the radio and head up over the WVA mountains.
    Stop in Uniontown at my
    Moms home,still standing ,built by
    my grandad’s own hands as an immigrant from Austria.

    Made all my most major life’s decisions on this 4 hour trip.

    Then, win or lose, once inside Heinz
    no other thoughts than Pitt – VPI

    It’s not Smith Island but for me, it works.


  16. Very interesting Reed…never heard of this place. No wonder the locals stay on the island…not many ‘off-islanders’ would be able to understand them.


  17. Don’t we all need to have our own Smith Island or should get one ASAP?

    I’ve found over the years, that time and the memories spent away with family together is like fine wine. They just get better over time.


  18. @Jackagain, my first thought was I wanted to grab a beer and kick back after all that work cutting the firewood. I think I will go grab one right now…LOL

    Then, what was it you threw in the fire to make the show on the 3rd video?


  19. Not to be redundant but it’s all about people sharing their stories/lives and getting to know each other first then sharing thoughts on PITT football, makes it much more interesting for me.


  20. Wow — Why’s everybody going all soft on me here???

    🙂 🙂 Lol kidding! Great to read everyone of your articles @Reed and enjoy all of your comments 😉 .

    Where is Upittbaseball here though??? —>“First of all Reed and you crazy-guys, Trump is the effin’ man! And camping is for Cavemen! I have a 90 inch TV in Texas with 10,000 High-Def channels, and a Fridge full of Beer, you guys are ridiculous going off into the woods and crazy Islands like Tom Hanks in Castaway!” — kidding! — but @Upittbaseball I personally don’t think I would break-even though betting on all of your predictions 😉 lol.

    This Pitt Football Bye-week has been a great, Calm Before The Storm here at the Pitt POV and it’s been amazing. It’s almost (Key Word: Almost haha) sad that it’s almost “Game Week” and we’re all going to be back Holding the Fire to Josh Conklin to fix the secondary, and Putting the ‘Weight of Atlas’ on Nathan Peterman to win us the game against the Gobblers!

    #HailToPitt !!!

    @Reed I feel like this website and all it’s posters are going to becoming a story on College Gameday or something — maybe next year before the Pitt v penn state game in State College — This has become a lil phenomenon here!


  21. DK, nothing on TV beats our fires live and in living color. Throw in the fire works and….did I mention the food? These guys I camp with are beer collectors. I’ve had about every craft & Belgium beer there is.

    This last trip one of the guys brought a small smoker and slow cooked ribs for about 6 hours,,,,


  22. ^^^^ “Throw in the fire works and….did I mention the food? These guys I camp with are beer collectors. I’ve had about every craft & Belgium beer there is.”

    ^^^ So you went on a camping trip to Heaven ….why did you come back??!!! 😉 lol!

    #PittIsIt !!!


  23. DK, I’m mostly a wine collector. I got these guys into vintage ports. I opened a 1977 Grahams port a few years back. Real nice around the fire….


  24. I hate camping did I tell ya, unless someone else is doing all the grunt work.

    Prefer room service at the Ritz Carlton and a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. 🙂


  25. Jack again…Thanks for the pic and videos they made me homesick and hungry at the same time.. perfect visuals for this time of year… love you guys who have the technical savvy to put “stuff” on the blog… Our family has a camp “Wabbit Twaks” heated by a 100 yr old pot-belly stove nestled in the South Woods of Potter County with the trout stream right out the back door and surrounded by mountains and the”Big Woods” – minimal humans more wildlife and lots of room to walk and move around unencumbered.. now that is my relaxation
    A book worth reading for all ” Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv… theme is how each generation gets further and further from interaction with the great outdoors …for us old timers the outdoors was
    our stage and a toy to play with … tell a young kid to go outside and play today and most are clueless.. check the book out.. and thanks againJack!!🍻


  26. I’m still confident that enough rational patriots will still emerge after this devisive presidential campaign has concluded to put national interests above political partisanship going forward. No matter which political party ends up in control of the Judicial, Executive & Legislative branches of our federal government, sooner or later the political climate has to transcend partisan politics and evolve into a more bipartisan attitude to get some positive direction on all of these major issues confronting our nation & it’s citizens.

    I’m all about “America 1st” as well as feeling that we are “Stronger Together”. So I’m anxious to see some national healing after this election takes place.

    My election motto therefore is,,,,,

    “Let’s Make America Stronger Again, Together”. Since when it comes right down to it, whether you’re black, white red or yellow, whether your family has immigrated from, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Central or South America, or anywhere else from the four corners of the world, us, as in “US” of A are all in this thing called life together in the good old USA.

    Let the healing begin come 11/9/2016.


  27. Reed

    Good post and I couldn’t agree with you more. Just posted to my Facebook friends to stop putting up negative political BS. If you are that passionate about one of the candidates go volunteer for them, not blow up a place I go to check in on friends and family. ….and what the F happen to promoting your own candidate, it is all just non-stop bashing. I hate what this has become. It stresses me out also. Stopped watching the news.

    Damn, now I need a get away, LOL.

    Love MD. Beach, Annapolis and surrounding Chesapeake area. Did a race over the bay bridge a few years back, one of the best I have run in. Beer and crabs on the bay after.

    Basketball scrimmage open to the public today. 1:30.


  28. My wife grew up in an almost shack on the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii… had to to cook for the family over a wood stove and had to work as mate on her father’s 30 foot fishing boat for years.

    Needless to say, but she wants hotels and room service also… no camping for her. I don’t hesitate to give her the best I can after her very rough childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Reed, visited Hawaii and the Big Island for the first time this summer.

    I guess if you have to grow up in a shack that is a great place to do it.

    But fishing is a difficult way to earn a living. I bet your wife is one tough lady.

    I hope your family is doing OK and your son has a speedy recovery.


  30. Back to sports talk.
    My 2nd favorite team this week (whoever plays Penn State that week) is a -19.5 favorite over the Nittany Lions. Since my #1 team, the Pitt Panthers are off today, the buildup to the Prime time OSU vs PSU game is what peaks my TV viewing interests for today.
    In that regard, I checked out Black Shoe Diaries to see how the cult fans are spinning this one during pregame. The most recent prediction article was pretty rational with the author predicting a score of OSU-41, PSU-24 anticipated.
    But then the comments section let the cult mob mentality have it’s say in a big way. There were a few sane posts that kept it real but some on that board make Dr. Tom’s usual optimistic approach to predicting Pitt fortunes seem pathetically anemic when compared to most Penn State fans mindsets.
    And of course when all else fails they can always fall back on their attendance records when their W-L record takes a beating. Needless to say with the WHITEOUT at Beaver Stadium, a full house is anticipated, so the talk revolved around the Pedos being a top 5 venue when it comes to college football venues! LOL! No matter how reality impacts PSU, the cult always has the ability in the end of introspectively seeing themselves as the bestest of the best.
    Pretty sure that the 104 thousand fans assembled in their white T-shirts, etc. this evening are going to witness just another significant OSU beat down at Beaver Stadium duplicating the history of their last four meetings at creepy valley. But there’s always rationalization! Yeah, but we had over 100,000 fans watching that mugging of the Lions,,,,, so we got that going for us! Just SMH.


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